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We are pleased to bring you the 21st edition of Fast Facts. This is a brief report on
local data that we believe you will find useful in both understanding and improving the
health of our community. Our goal is to keep it brief and instructive and to provide opportunities for all persons to positively impact the issue. Please feel free to forward to colleagues, board members, legislators and others in the community. 

This month we look at cyberbullying, which involves using technology, like cell phones and the Internet, to bully or harass another person.  It can take many forms. About one-third of online teens (ages 12-17) have been cyberbullied[1].

Special thanks to Özlem Ersin with Manchester University's College of Pharmacy and Holli Seabury with the McMillen Center for Health Education for their assistance with this report.

[1] Lenhart A. (2007). Cyberbullying and Online Teens. Pew Internet & American Life Project

Children's use of electronic media has been linked to poorer sleep, depression, substance abuse, and musculoskeletal problems. Screen time comes also at the expense of decreased physical activity, a strong correlate of childhood obesity. A recent study at UCLA found that 6th graders without access to electronic devices for 5 days showed a remarkable improvement at recognizing facial expressions than kids who had regular exposure.[1]


But there is another negative health effect of electronic media use; the potential for cyberbullying. Recognized by the American Academy of Pediatrics as a form of violence against children and adolescents, cyberbullying is the use of technology by a young person to harass, threaten, embarrass or intimidate another child or teen. The emotional harm of cyberbullying can be inflicted through intimidation through text messages or emails, spreading rumors through social media sites, and posting embarrassing pictures, videos, websites, or fake profiles.[2]

  • Nearly 43% of kids have been bullied online. 1 in 4 has had it happen more than once.
  • 70% of students report seeing frequent bullying online.
  • Over 80% of teens use a cell phone regularly, making it the most common medium for cyber bullying.
  • 68% of teens agree that cyber bullying is a serious problem.
  • 81% of young people think bullying online is easier to get away with than bullying in person.[3]

Some interpersonal conflict is normal in childhood and can be beneficial to healthy growth when the child is able to resolve it successfully.  Cyberbullying differs from other forms of conflict because it is repetitive, intentional, and targeted against a specific victim. Both the perpetrator and victim of cyberbullying are minors, setting it apart from other online predatory behaviors such as stalking and pedophilia where an adult perpetrator targets a minor victim.

Cyberbullying differs from bullying in other significant ways. In typical bullying, the bully picks on victims who are smaller or socially isolated, whereas in cyberbullying, the bully/victim pair can be friends. They tend to belong to similar online communities and utilize the same social media sites. This social proximity of the bully/victim renders cyberbullying especially heinous by isolating the victim from his/her peers and social groups. Unlike typical bullying in the physical realm, the cloak of anonymity in the virtual space can complicate efforts to identify bullies and hinder remedial action.


When Indiana high school students were surveyed, almost one in five had experienced cyberbullying [1]:


Ever been electronically bullied in last year              19%

Bullied on school property in last year                      25%



While we are still learning the impact of cyberbullying, young people who are victims of Internet harassment are significantly more likely than those who have not been victimized to:[1]

  • Use alcohol and other drugs
  • Receive school detention or suspension
  • Skip school
  • Experience in-person victimization
  • Have poor parental monitoring
  • Have weak emotional bonds with their caregiver.

What You Can Do 


As a health care provider:

  • When a young patient complains of anxiety or attention problems, consider cyberbullying as a potential root cause
  • Encourage parents and guardians to talk to their children about bullying
  • When you discover a child is harassed or intimidated by peers, advise parents to discuss bullying with the school principal or guidance counselor
*As a parent:
  • Monitor your child's use of technology
  • Discuss bullying with a teacher, school principal or guidance counselor
  • Download the free app for sample conversation starters with your child and tips for recognizing signs, available at
  • To prevent exposure, limit screen time to two hours a day for children ages 3-18 
  • Refer to additional recommendations from the Office of the Indiana Attorney General [2] 
*As an educator:
  • Help children and adolescents identify trusted adults who can offer emotional support and be allies
  • Develop a school-wide policy on bullying and share key information with children and families [3]

Recommendations from the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP)


[1] AAP recommends no screen time for children younger than 2 years


[3] A model policy is available from Indiana Department of Education at



The McMillen Center for Health Education in Fort Wayne offers two programs for youth that address cyberbullying:

This program looks at the new trend of bullying: cyberbullying. As the Net Generation becomes more "wired" the opportunities for bullying continue to increase. Statistics reveal one-third of teens have experienced cyberbullying and that 22% of middle school students have been involved in some form of cyberbullying. In this program, students learn the most "cutting-edge" information, the effects, intervention plans, and ways to use technology positively. 


Sexting and Texting: Safe Social Media (Grades 7-10): 

This program offers students the opportunity to look at what can potentially happen to images and messages posted online using the technology of today. Students will hear that they need to protect their future, both online and in person, through the responsible use of social media and computer apps. Discussion includes sexting, texting, and IM-ing negative messages and the effects they can have on both the recipient and sender. Videos, discussion, and activities will demonstrate how harmful these seemingly anonymous actions can be.


Contact the center at (260) 456-4511 or


Other Helpful Links:

Additional Resources:

"Building Capacity to Reduce Bullying" is a booklet summary of a workshop convened by the Board on Children, Youth, and Families of the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council in April 2014 to identify the conceptual models and interventions that have proven effective in decreasing bullying, 
Fast Facts is a collaboration of the Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health and
United Way 2-1-1 of Northeast Indiana
  Contact Deborah McMahan, MD or John Silcox
 c/o Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health